David Preece: All is not well at Manchester United if Jose Mourinho is having call out players like this
Poirot would have been joining the queues outside a Belgian job centre within a couple of years if his suspects were all as brazen as Jose Mourinho.
Sat outside a cafe in Brussels, he’d just sip on his cup of tisane and patiently wait for them to announce their intentions before bludgeoning their victims in full view of him.
I’m not sure Agatha Christie would’ve sold many of those novels but she’d have had plenty to write about if she’d lived to be Mourinho’s biographer.
“Murder on the M4 just past Port Talbot” doesn’t have as much of a ring to it as the The Orient Express but the knife wounds administered were every bit as bloody.
Mourinho didn’t throw just his players under a bus, he had Rui Faria do it for him whilst he took the control of the steering wheel and ploughed it into them, before slipping the gears into reverse just to make sure he finished the job.
“Why would he do that?” you might ask. “Why would he suggest Smalling and Shaw were mentally weak or in the least, uncommitted to their cause.” you may also ponder.
Perhaps you’d think after such a mauling he’d lose the trust of the two players and the image would be irreparable.
After all, both United defenders will have woken up the next morning, embarrassed, thinking they’d had that dream we’ve all had where you’re sat in school and it suddenly dawns on you that you’re only wearing your underwear. Or worse still, naked.
Their embarrassment will have been felt acutely and the remarks will not have gone down well.
His motives are transparent though. Mourinho tried to make a statement by leaving Bastian Schweinsteiger to stew with the stiffs, in the same way Pep Guardiola discarded Joe Hart with such ruthlessness, so it would leave no doubt who was in charge.
It didn’t quite go to plan though.
The German legend is obviously a popular character, as was Hart but out of sight, out of mind, Pep didn’t allow Hart’s continued presence challenge his authority. That was Mourinho’s mistake.
Now, after a lacklustre start to the campaign, Schweinsteiger has been welcomed back in the fold and Mourinho has had to find another way to shock his underperforming squad into action and Smalling and Shaw have paid the price for declaring themselves unfit to face Swansea.
Was he right to do it though? Well, in my opinion, he was both.
Attitudes towards how players handle injuries and knocks have changed and for their long-term benefit that’s a good thing. As a professional sportsman, there’s a fine line between bravery and stupidity. One that you’re constantly walking like it’s a tightrope.
As you get older, you get to know you’re own body and become a better judge of what injuries you can and can’t play with but until you get to that point, one person plays a crucial role in helping you decide right from wrong: your physio.
For someone like myself whose career was beset by serious injuries almost at every stage, you put your trust in this person who knows better until you can gauge the strains and knocks for yourself.
Managers will always apply pressure to their medical staff to make sure his players are passed fit for selection, crossing the line in professionalism in some cases.
When that happens, some physios can wilt and deflect full responsibility to the player to make the decision whether to play or not, and that becomes a gamble.
Any time you see a player you know has struggled to make the line-up limp off after 10 minutes, you can guarantee the decision would have been left down the individual.
That’s when you need strong character from your medical staff to stand up to managers and make the decision for you.
John Sharp at Aberdeen was one of those characters. As a player, he was brilliant because his diagnosis was excellent and you trusted his judgement.
He would explain how the injury occurred, what has happened since and give you an approximate recovery time should you follow his rehabilitation program.
More importantly though, when it came to injuries which were weren’t so clear cut, he would tell whether you could play with it without any danger of long-term damage or whether you should take another week’s rehab with him.
Psychologically, that’s a huge weight off your shoulders because of the huge fight you’re having with your own conscience. What if you lose your place in the side? What if Much of it depends on the stage of your career and your status in the squad.
There was a time when you’d play with anything, no matter the consequences but that’s the stupid route to take.
You might get a pat on the back for risking it all for your team but should that injury turn into something more serious and you don’t have a big part to play in that season, you won’t receive any medals with your P45.
What Mourinho was right about was need to take yourself out of your comfort zone and push yourself to the limit, beyond what is normal.
That’s how some games are won. Not necessarily by the most talented team but the one willing to push themselves harder.
Mourinho’s frustration with his players couldn’t be any clearer but the players might be better served not holding a grudge against their manager, but it’s also the medical staff who have hung them out to dry.
You’d imagine Jose’s conviction in his opinion came after his medical staff cleared both to play and the decision was left with Smalling and Shaw. Whether he’s playing a game to see how they react or if it’s for the benefit of the squad to show more commitment, it’s definitely a sign that all is not well at United if he’s still having to flex his muscles like this.